Weeds a growing problem for Parkersburg officials

PARKERSBURG – Officials say they have their hands full trying to keep up with overgrown weeds on city and private lots.

“It is a monumental task,” said Parkersburg Code Enforcement Director Gary Moss. “It has been for the last few years.”

It’s a tough job each year, according to Mayor Bob Newell.

“Every year it is a constant struggle,” said Newell. “Particularly this time of year, with the alternating rain and sunshine, it’s all we can do to try and keep up with it whenever things dry out enough.”

The city has about 100 acres of property, such as parks and facilities, which need to be mowed and maintained. The city also maintains many rights of way and sometimes helps state crews handle state-controlled routes through the city, such as Garfield and Murdoch avenues.

“If you add in Johnson T. Janes Park, you pretty much double that area,” being mowed and maintained, Newell said.

It’s not just property owned by the city which can cause issues. Many properties within the city limits are privately owned, but have been abandoned or are not maintained.

“We are mowing probably 150-plus lots,” Moss said. “These are ones that normally individuals would be taking care of, but due to bankruptcies and foreclosures, or just the owners walking away from them, they get overgrown and become a nuisance. We run ourselves ragged trying to take care of these.”

Such property owners are notified, the mayor said.

“In those cases, all we can do is send the owner a certified letter telling them to clean up their property,” Newell said. “If they don’t, we will, and we will assess a lien against their property.”

“By then the grass is 3 feet tall,” Moss said.

Newell said it’s rare for the city to see any reimbursement.

“It’s a cost to the taxpayer, obviously,” he said. “It is a lengthy process we have to go through before we can even go onto someone’s property. We get complaints on properties, so we try to take care of it for the neighborhood.”

“It comes to a point where we have to do it, as a service to the city and for the community,” Moss said. “I know people get frustrated seeing these lots overgrown, but with a three-man crew, you just can’t get to them every week.”

Newell said for a lot of summer mowing projects the city partners with the work release program at the Parkersburg Correctional Center.

“Every morning we have a weed and grass crew that picks up workers from there,” Newell said. “They’ve been an absolute godsend for us. We couldn’t take care of this as quickly otherwise.”

Newell said residents can help with the process while maintaining their own properties by mowing and tending areas in front of homes or businesses that are between the sidewalk and the street.

“People are really responsible for grass curbs and sidewalks up to the street,” he said. “In mowing those, really we are doing more than we should. Homeowners and businesses are responsible for their grass.”